Best used car for under $15,000
August 11, 2017 10:19 PM   Subscribe

I get very easily overwhelmed researching cars. I'd love any advice or input. I'm looking for a used car around/under $15,000 that fits the following criteria: safe safe safe can comfortably haul 1 adult, 2-3 kids under 10, a dog and camping gear sits higher than my current compact not a noisy highway ride decent on gas, both city and highway I don't need a lot of bells and whistles. I just want something safe, dependable and roomy. I live in an area with lots of snow and very cold in the winter, and hot hot heat in the summer! Hoping to do road trips but nothing rugged. I am curious how old I can go, and what kind of mileage I should be considering for this price. Thanks in advance!
posted by retrofitted to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Subaru Outback.
It's like a small station wagon, drives like a small car, it has all the room you need, and 4 wheel drive for safer winter driving.

At your budget you might be looking at a '07, or '08 model with more miles on it.
It's important to have any used car checked out by a mechanic before purchasing.

There's plenty of other choices out there, but this is my suggestion.
posted by artdrectr at 11:54 PM on August 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

I drive a 2013 Ford Escape, and i bought it because you and I have incredibly similar vehicular requirements. I'm extremely utilitarian about cars.

I have a kid and dogs, and we camp.

This is my second Escape. The first one was totaled when I got hit from behind at freeway speeds. I walked away without injury, unlike the driver who hit me or the driver of the car my car got pushed into.

In addition to my regular urban street driving, I've driven this car (and the one before it) through California summers, mountain passes, snow and ice in Colorado, Midwestern near-blizzard conditions, and backcountry dirt roads. It gets great gas mileage for its class.

I plan to trade this one in soon, and I'll be looking at another used Escape when I do.
posted by erst at 1:01 AM on August 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

Ran out of time to edit. Husband, kid, dogs, and camping gear all fit easily. We've considered adding a roof rack for a Yakima gearbox/cargo box for multi-week trips, but haven't needed one quite yet (we're light packers). When I trade this one in, we'll probably look for one that comes with a roof rack.

We road trip upwards of 2000 miles at a time about once a year. This is the most unexpected-maintenance-free vehicle I've ever owned.
posted by erst at 1:10 AM on August 12, 2017

I've got a friend who raves about his Subaru Crosstrek - its built a bit more for off-road than the Outback - better approach & departure angles, better mileage. Slightly less storage capacity though & they haven't been around as long, so maybe not as many on the used market.

It's probably what I'll eventually replace my Celica with.
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:46 AM on August 12, 2017

I have a '10 Subaru Outback that I got for $10k (private sale, so no dealer markup) a couple years ago. It meets all of your needs, except that Subarus are notoriously road noisy (something about the all wheel drive system). If you get the opportunity to take one for a test drive, see what you think. Foresters, too. They both drive like much smaller cars than they are and they have tons of room.
posted by soren_lorensen at 6:14 AM on August 12, 2017

It doesn't have the higher clearance, but I'm planning on a Prius next. Roomier than you think, and the electrical system is configured so that you can run stuff off the storage battery. That allows you to charge and use the phone, laptop, etc. They are very well made, run for a long time, mileage is spectacular, comfortable daily drive. Friends drive them happily in Maine winters with snow tires. They hold their value, so you have to shop pretty hard.
posted by theora55 at 9:30 AM on August 12, 2017

And I did a long road trip in a Honda Odyssey minivan. So much room, and I made a tent extension to go over the liftback. The back row is easy to fold down for extra space. Mileage is decent, roof rack, safe.
posted by theora55 at 9:33 AM on August 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

As a data point, I bought a 2014 Corolla with 24k miles last October. I don't know how high you'd want it to be, but it's higher than my previous car, and it checks your other boxes.
posted by kevinbelt at 6:18 PM on August 12, 2017

Like Soren says, a Subaru Forrester sounds like it ticks a lot of your boxes. The Outback does too. My experience of Subarus in general has been very good, they go and go and if you can find a well kept one the engines can be good for 300K miles. Regarding what $15K will get you, I would pick a make/model, go on or and work backwards from 2016 until you find the model year that's in your price range. The lower the miles, the more expensive they will be.
posted by AllTheQuestions at 9:55 PM on August 12, 2017

You should be able to get a 3-4 year old RAV4 for that, depending on your market and trim level.
posted by wierdo at 11:11 PM on August 12, 2017

Based on the safe safe requirements I would suggest an older Dodge Durango V8 you can get one for way less than $15,000 more like $5,000 full leather top of the line. With the difference you can do any repairs as they come up and pay the extra gas around town. I picked one up a long time back when gas had gone through the roof best buy I ever made.
posted by nealeg at 1:52 PM on August 17, 2017

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